Wednesday, 14 April 2010

What are you doing for National Wind-up-a-scientist Day?

Whether you love scientists or loathe them (as a science writer, I admit to a certain fondness) - or even if you are a scientist - you have to admit that they have a tendency to take themselves too seriously.

On this first National Wind-up-a-scientist Day, I think we all have a duty to find some little way to tease a boffin. This isn't cruelty. No scientists will be hurt in the making of this day. The idea, rather, as we were always told at school, is that if someone takes themselves too seriously, the best thing to do is apply a little humour. It does the trick every time - and they'll thank you for it when they realize that this makes them seem more human to the rest of us.

So what can you do? The opportunities are vast. Consider for instance:
  • Telling a scientist their biggest rival has had a break through
  • Moan about what a waste of money the Large Hadron Collider is
  • Ask them if they've heard that the government is now requiring all biology courses at university to include intelligent design
  • Ask if they really think that geeks are more attractive to the opposite sex
  • If dealing with a biologist, tell them you had some time to spare and washed up all those little dishes and tubes in their lab. No need to thank you
  • Ask them how the world will be made a better place by their work
  • Do some sums on how many starving children could be fed using their departmental budget
  • Ask why Brian Cox is always on TV, but they aren't
  • Say 'Science is very useful, but it hasn't the same inherent interest as the arts, has it?'
And so on. I'm sure you can think of much better ideas. And remember, if you are a scientist, you clearly don't take yourself too seriously, but think of all those colleagues who do. Get to work!

I have been asked why today - why is 14 April National Wind-up-a-scientist Day? Well it is the birth date of Christian Huygens, he of the early wave theory of light, who was pretty good at winding up Isaac Newton. But, to be honest, it primarily commemorates the day on which I thought 'this should be National Wind-up-a-scientist Day.'

Image from Wikipedia
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